Love is a feeling you can feel for anyone — India's first openly gay athlete Dutee Chand
With Section 377 struck down, India's first gay sprinter Dutee Chand continues to love her girlfriend 'truly, madly, deeply', as they move towards a more 'accepting' future.
'Every day is Valentine's Day when you are in love', they say. And who better than Dutee Chand and her girlfriend Monalisa to relate to this "cheesy but true" line?
Indian ace sprinter and Olympian, Dutee Chand and her girlfriend have openly spoken about their relationship this Valentine's Day. The same-sex couple gave a lengthy interview with Odisha's highest circulated monthly family magazine – Kadambini, where Dutee revealed the identity of her girlfriend, Monalisa for the first time.
Splashed on the cover of the magazine for the Valentine's Day special issue - Dutee and Monalisa looked perfectly smitten as they recalled their story of falling - and staying in love, with each other.
This is the first time Dutee and Monalisa, came out in the open and narrated their entire love story for the world to read, right from the shy start to the present. The lovely couple disclosed how they met during a Khudurkuni Puja at their village and fell in love over time to facing queerphobia, battling prejudices and also, spilled the beans about their relationship to inspire other couples.
In the magazine interview with the Editor, Dr. Iti Samanta, Dutee also expressed that even now, people perceive their queer relationship as something different from hetero relationships and not one and the same romantic relationship.
When The Bridge reached out to Dutee on Valentine's Day to talk about love, relationships and everything in between, she was more than happy to have a chat.
Love is Love
Have you ever wondered about that golden question – What is Love? Well, Dutee Chand has got you covered.
According to Dutee, for ages, we have been told love only happened between men and women, but it is not true. Blame it on the social conditioning, if you will.
In Dutee's words, "Love is a feeling. You can experience this feeling for anyone. People say only certain gender or caste can feel love, but it is not true. You can love whoever you want."
Coming out: Then vs Now
Even though it's 2022, queer people in the country, as well as all around the globe, still face discrimination and are subject to a lot of trials and tribulations from people who aren't comfortable with the idea of - Live and let love.
It was no different for Dutee when she came out in 2019, after all, she was India's 'first openly gay athlete'.
"When I first came out in 2019, I had to face a lot of backlashes from people. People started criticizing me about my gender and my relationship," said Dutee, who hails from Jajpur, Odisha.
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Today, even though coming out is still not easy for all, many queer folks have come forward and openly talked about sexuality, gender and relationships.
"Earlier people didn't even know about queer relationships. People were afraid to come out due to societal pressure and the fear of being thrown out of the village. But since I have openly come out and after the amendment of Section 377, I see things slowly changing," Chand hopefully put forth.
Personally, Dutee has herself seen a lot of changes and acceptance around her. People who used to criticize her for being in a homosexual relationship have now started showing support towards the gold medallist sprinter from the 2019 World University Games in Napoli.
The affair of Sports and Gender
Well, Indian Sports is not where one shall look for when it comes to queer representation or LGBTQAI+ history in India. One could say Dutee Chand is the first and only gay athlete in the country for now.
As mentioned earlier coming out can be difficult and maybe Indian sports hasn't really made an attempt towards making 'every' athlete feel accepted.
However, the athlete's community has always had Dutee's back. "Everyone in my sports circle, my fellow runners, coaches and others accepted me for who I am. No one questioned my decision to come out. They said that I have taken a good step for myself as well as the society."
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Talking about sports, Dutee is set to have a very busy year ahead with Asian Games and Commonwealth Games on the schedule.
"My training for future tournaments has already started since November. There are lots of tournaments to look forward to including Asian Games and the World Championships."
Just like Dutee's sports journey has surely inspired many young athletes in the country, one can hope her love story and the tale of her fearlessly coming out also helps spread love and acceptance for queer people in society.